With very few opened bottles left to talk about at this time, we begin today’s polishing session with a Serge-recommended independently bottled 11yo Strathmill, finished for 19 months in a European first-fill oloroso butt – and it looks it too!! I simply couldn’t resist. I might even have wished for two bottles, but there will be another engaging and affordable single malt coming along soon enough.
- N: ‘It’s oloroso Jim’, but not as we know it. Aside from all the drying pencil shavings, we’ve a number of confectionary chocolate treats [from brands that don’t win any ethical awards], alongside dried fruit jelly & fruit-sweet jam stock [whatever that is?], sweet honeyed mash into honeysuckle,…. From another viewpoint, I find it banana-ey/Deanston-esque,.. tropical,… with a [Foursquare-esque] cask-driven rum-like booziness, a drop of rosewater,…,.. leathery bone-dry fruit~floral succulence,.. An alluring, idiosyncratic, and versatile number for sure.
- T: Intense [spicy] arrival into sawdusty=bone-drying salty-malty-mashy-spicy molasses & honeyed/herbal-savoury-sweet > [Asian]/MSG/stock-plum/black bean sauce,.. soon settling into a slow paper-dry delivery of salty >~ muscovado > molasses sugars into mashy honey,….. a further flash of rosewater and then halva en route.
- F: Herbal [long-wet leafy] caramel > moist mild nutty tannic grapey < oakiness,… and is that a quince and redcurrant jelly note? This isn’t your usual oloroso whisky experience that’s for sure, nor your usual Strathmill either.
- C: This mixes so very well with Redbreast 12yo CS, scoring 89 for a blend of the two. As a single malt in its own right, we’ve solid spirit from a singular cask that makes for an inspiring/exotic/unique/hotchpotch result. The bone-dryness along with flashes of the unique/exotic, pushes this one past the current cul-de-sac benchmark score belt of around 84-87, though the question remains: am I enjoying Strathmill or simply decent spirit in a good cask? Then again, with a result like this, what does it even matter?
Scores 88 points
Talking of Redbreast, here’s my full-bottle review of the 12yo CS.
- N: Surgically-clean vanilla-ey [Greenore-esque] spirit, neat, one you’re going to want to add water to from the off. Diluted a touch, we’ve a firm NOS [capacitor] waxiness over banana in many forms – over-ripe/dried/pureed/pressed – and with papaya, mango [a little melon, > pineapple,….] dusty custard mixed with hollandaise,… Despite how that may sound, it’s never a truly joyous noser, always remaining slightly,… clinical.
- T: Overall, a bold [punchy] clean spirity experience with a mild sour > ~ sweet green > yellow fruitiness,… amongst other things.
- F: Not overcomplicated. Very clean spirited it remains with echoes of [ex]-bourbon, fruity < waxy < grassy vanilla,… popcorn,..
- C: This took many many months to open up, and even then, I’m not sure I find it any better or worse than the standard 12yo [WLP86] – more ‘same-same but different’ and far pricier! It’s hard to believe there isn’t a sweet-spot [release] in-between the two.
Scores 85 points
[My] James Eddie’s Strathmill/Redbreast CS Blend
I experimented with a number of ratios, most successfully around the 40/60 [Strathmill/Redbreast] mark.
- C: With the Redbreast providing backbone and Strathmill’s role as top-noter, we see [oloroso-brought] red fruits, that desirable bone dryness, a murky/vegetal waxiness,… complexity/interest, layers/depth, support. Then there’s the mouthfeel. What a match-up these two are, and without any marriage time.
Scores 89 points
Whilst we are with Redbreast, here’s yet another ‘standard’ bottle of Redbreast 12yo that’s gone down a treat.
- N: Instantly appealing, the oloroso influence is irrefutable but comes with an Irish twist on those ‘seasoned’ sherry casks. Oh, and then there’s that wax! The tropical fruits integrate/meld beautifully with the [banana/melon >pineapple] fruit punch waxiness, putty wax, [new not dusty] wax capacitor wax, vanilla=ed [JD] bourbon-ed wax,… What’s the chemical compound for wax esters? RCOOH + R’OH <=> RCOOR’ + H2O, apparently!
- T: And there’s that wax again, consolidated fruity > vanilla-seeped soupy/juicy sour-sweet [dessert-gravy?] fruit punch-like candle wax [again], and more besides. The minimum bottling strength of 40% is telling whilst making this far too easy to drink. With soft-tempered yet active/ raw bourbon cask action underneath [as seen with the CS version], and the mash-bill under that, it’s the vanilla-putty, metallic Milk of Magnesia succulent tropical sherry-seasoned fruits & berries into powder [Nesquik strawberry] shakes that seal the deal, though the bourbon-y raw sherried-freshness finds itself on tenuous lines.
- F: As if painstakingly choreographed, it finishes true to form – varnished [bourbon] wood-induced/influenced with more of that waxy slightly parching scrunched burnt/scorched-fruit vanilla. Concludes with putty < wax and a biscuity/woody floor, the sherry influence sympathetically managed to the last.
- C: As discussed with the CS version, what a difference a few more abv degrees wouldn’t give – 43% might even do it. Still, it’s moreish juice from the off. After some splendid O&R drams interspersed by a number of decent malternatives over the last few months, this certainly holds up as a jobbing contemporary 12yo from start to finish.
Scores 85 points
We finish this season’s polishing session with a smoke bomb from Islay!
What’s the difference between Octomore’s 3.1 and the 6.1? Around £100-150 on the secondary market! So having sold a 6.1 to a whisky club friend, imagine my surprise when we [he] realised – after opening it – that I’d wrongly given him a 3.1 instead. In hindsight, it was a win-win. He got his 6.1 and a try of the 3.1, whilst I – in the spirit of letting go – actually got round to drinking a bottle from my own collection. Thank you Lewis, and also for the CS Springbank [WB89].
Whiskyauctioneer tells us: ‘This rather oddly is actually the fourth Octomore release from Bruichladdich, following the Octomore Orpheus 3.2. A further increase in peating level to what seemed at the time a remarkable 152ppm. There were 18,000 bottled‘.
- N: Is that not the smell of testosterone & oestrogen, encapsulated within this very salty sweaty ‘green’ [concoction of organic & manufactured vegetal]~oily=briny herbal [shammy] leather profile?
- T: Vegetal-oily intensity carbolic-phenolic dry sour~bitter? < salty, meaty…. arrival & travel before braking abruptly [though temporary] thereafter. There’s plenty here, but is hard to decipher when things flutter in and fade out so rapidly.
- F: With a puckering blackberry-pollen soft-zingy ashiness, just a touch of succulent vanilla quince/pear jelly, and tobacco bitterness on the turn, one could eke out a Bayeux-style finishing note tapestry. All roads, however, lead to dry phenolic vegetal oily cauterised/ashy cigarette-abused > raisins/pears.
- C: Very decent whisky if somewhat disappointing given the price/prestige and, admittedly, expectation. Given the outturn sizes, many of the Octomore range will be around for many years to come, so we can afford to be [more] patient.
Scores 87 points